"You delivered me from strife with the peoples; you made me head of the nations….Great triumphs God gives to the king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever." - Psalm 18:1-6, 43-50
David sings a song of gratitude to God for having freed him and Israel from the rapidly declining rule of King Saul.
Of course, God never just frees people from things; God always also frees them for things. To live a life, corporate or individual, marked by love, righteousness, justice. To pour out one's—or one's nation's—strength and wealth in firm kindness and gentle struggle on behalf of others. To live out the good news that God is in love with every person, everywhere.
239 years ago, the Continental Congress formally freed itself from the declining rule of a different king. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are some of the things it understood itself to be freed for. Safety and security are others.
Before you head out to the barbeque or fireworks show today, take some time to reread the Declaration of Independence (it's been too long since you've done that, hasn't it?). What else were we freed for? What other obligations have been conferred on us, as individuals and as a nation, by the struggle that those long-ago men and women made? What would God say we ought to be pouring our national life out for?
The extent to which God was active in the founding of our nation is a matter of debate. The extent to which God longs for all nations to be just and peaceful is not.
God shed your grace on the nations, America among the rest. And shed it too on all our best efforts to build the world for which you long. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is the Pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church, Syracuse, New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.